Thoughts on the Cross and Resurrection.
I've had quite a busy weekend catching up with some old friends from Birmingham, however the message by Ern Baxter on the "Serious Neglect" (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4) and the subsequent interview on the same topic has been occupying my mind a great deal. Surely any wrong mindset in our approach to the Gospel which affects our corporate life and therefore our witness to the nations should concern anyone who is passionate at all about the Great Commission.
I remembered that this is not a new concern and that I have discussed this before - again prompted by some comments that Ern Baxter made. On Monday, 20th February I referred to Terry Virgo's "Enjoying God's Grace" tour (which still hasn't finished by the way!) and the messages available and in the subsequent discussion, my friend Don made some absolutely excellent comments on this very difficulty (and sound very similar to Ern Baxter's actually!)- which I think need to be hear again. So here they are:
"Where from this teaching of Paul's can one get the idea that we should be looking to the Cross every day (even though we "take it up" as a symbol of dying to our own desires) and bemoaning our "besetting sin," instead of
1)identifying and rebuking the *satanic* source of all sinful temptation (which no one was doing), and 2) LOOKING moment-by-moment to THE VICTORIOUS, RISEN CHRIST ON HIS THRONE WHICH HE GLADLY SHARES WITH US, AND TO HIS SPIRIT OF ALL GRACE, WISDOM AND COMFORT?
Here's how I see the gospel, based on how the disciples of Jesus behaved:
1. The cross without the resurrection leads to confusion and despair.
2. The cross with the resurrection leads to joyful assurance that our sins have been forgiven by God, through Jesus, who is now alive.
3. The cross with the resurrection and the ascension leads to hope in a glorious future with Jesus, who has gone ahead to make a dwelling place for us with His Father, and will one day return to destroy evil forever and take us to live with Him as He is now.
4. The cross with the resurrection, the ascension and the infilling of the Holy Spirit leads to a triumphant Body of Christ on Earth; moving with the mind and power of Christ to become ever more like Him and tell others of what we've learned and experienced with Him; and, united with Him not just through His written Word, but also through His moment-by-moment presence with us in our *redeemed* inner man. Members of this Body have complete access to *everything* that is His (Jn 16:14-15), including the experience of sonship in His Father!
With these unsearchable riches available to us through the *whole* process of the glorification of Jesus Christ, why would any Christian want to teach "nothing but The Cross?"
If I now have been given the mind of Christ, shouldn't I be thinking the thoughts of Christ? What does Jesus think about? Is Christ pondering His sin? Or is He filled with holy thoughts of faith, hope and love?"
The comment is much longer and deserves a reading. The bottom line of the issue for me is this: what is presenting the most God-glorifying image to the world? What is truly being salt and light to the lost? What will be more attractive to the list (using Don's words); "a triumphant Body of Christ on Earth; moving with the mind and power of Christ to become ever more like Him and tell others of what we've learned and experienced with Him; and, united with Him not just through His written Word, but also through His moment-by-moment presence with us in our *redeemed* inner man" - or a church body fixated on the Cross, bemoaning insetting sin and despairing of ever mortifying it and committed to endless legalistic practices in a sincere effort to deal with it?
Let me repeat along with Ern Baxter that the object is not to take away from the Cross at all. As Ern said; "The Cross is where Jesus Christ made the legal arrangements for the release of the functional dynamic of the Holy Spirit". However I cannot get away from what Ern called the "bottom line".
"Because the bottom line of Christianity is not the Incarnation, it is not the impeccable life, it is not the vicarious death, it is not the victorious resurrection or the glorious enthronement - it is the outpoured Holy Spirit".